I’m worried my coworker is abusing his wife, a chronically late colleague, and more — Ask a Manager

here are the 10 best questions to ask your job interviewer — Ask a Manager

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I’m worried my coworker is abusing his wife

I know you’ve covered how to help a coworker is being abused, but what do you do when the person you work with might be the abuser? My coworker displays some very concerning behavior towards his wife. She is a stay-at-home mom, but he doesn’t allow her to drive their daughter anywhere. They have several cameras in their house that he monitors constantly throughout the day. Comments he’s made make me think he controls all their finances as well. Her sister lives 3,000 miles away and her parents are in a different country, so she’s very isolated here. I’ve met her a handful of times, but do not have any kind of substantial relationship with her. Is there any way to reach out to her without overstepping as a coworker? This doesn’t feel as straightforward as helping a coworker I believe is being abused.

How horrible. I suppose it’s possible that there’s some other explanation (like, I don’t know, she’s an addict and he worries about her driving and caring for their kid), but of course you’re concerned! Ugh.

Is there any way you can develop more of a relationship with her? Can you encourage him to bring her to more work functions and try to get to know her better? It’s very difficult for even people who are close to the person being abused to get them to leave, so unfortunately you’re not  well-positioned to help her … but generally speaking, the less isolated she is and the more people treat her as a good and worthwhile person, the better off she will be.

Separately: can you ask him point-blank why he’s monitoring her during the day and tell him that’s weird? Maybe social pressure could make him ease up on that part of it at least.

dealing with domestic abuse in the workplace

2. Should I tell my boss about my chronically late coworker?

When and how should you do something about a coworker’s chronic lateness?

My coworker is frequently 30-45 minutes late to an early morning shift. This leaves me to deal with stuff alone, and it’s hard to plan how to handle various tasks with the uncertainty.

They have also admitted to clocking in but being away from their computer. I’ve asked for time-sensitive help during their work hours, and they haven’t responded for 20+ minutes, which is very unusual for our team.

Our team often works remotely and signs on via a team chat. The message timestamps may have tipped off my boss, but I doubt they are checking that.

I’ve said a few things to the chronically late coworker. I told them that it’s hard to plan out the morning when they’re late. I shared my sympathy and tips for waking up early when they complained that it’s hard — but it keeps happening.

I want to tell boss about the lateness. I like this coworker a lot as an human, and so does my boss. I’m worried about souring relationships by saying something, but it’s frustrating and unfair. How can I get relief?

The answer to when you should say something about a coworker’s chronic lateness is: when it’s affecting your work or the team’s work. And in this case it clearly is.

Talk to your boss. Explain that your coworker is frequently 30-45 minutes late, which leaves you deal with stuff alone, which causes XYZ problems. Say that when you ask for time-sensitive help, you often don’t hear back from them quickly enough (based on the norms of your team), which causes XYZ problems. Ask for advice on what you can do.

This isn’t “tattling” (a word you used in your email’s subject line). This is looping your boss in on a problem that’s affecting your work and asking for help in handling it. You’ve already told your coworker that their lateness is causing issues; your boss is the next logical step to figure out a work solution to a work problem.

3. Creative application materials

I’m dating someone new who has been job searching for over a year after finishing grad school. She says that all of her mentors and professors advise “creative” application materials (think a resume in the style of a restaurant menu or a cover that looks like a film script). This is for communications field jobs. What do you think?

Good lord, no.

Hiring managers want resumes that are organized so that they can be easily skimmed and with all the relevant info where they expect to find it. They do not want gimmicks that sacrifice function to form.

4. Can we tell clients work didn’t get done because our old manager sucked?

My department at work was run until last year by Zephaniah, who had no idea what he was doing (think: a math teacher who doesn’t know algebra) and who had no interest in doing better. We were all constantly fighting fires to make sure basics of day-to-day operation were getting done.

Management managed him out and now we are happier, but we’re still frequently finding important tasks he didn’t do. This year a number of clients are now wondering why jobs haven’t been done for them. Is it okay to just dump the blame for everything Zephaniah did on him? Is there any need to be diplomatic and make excuses when a client asks why some product hasn’t been delivered yet?

You’ve got to bring this to management above you to figure out how to handle it. Clients won’t be happy to  hear their work (that they were presumably paying for) didn’t get done because of a bad employee. That’s requires some kind of appeasement — like a discount or something along those lines — and your management should be involved in figuring out that messaging.

5. Can my old employer make me give them my notes binder?

I was fired from my job on Monday. When I packed my desk, I took my notes binder with me. My old manager called me today to tell me to bring back the notes binder because it might have some of the company accounts info in it. It only has my notes. Is this legal for her to want this from me?

Legally, your employer owns work you create in the scope of your employment, which includes notes about your projects. So if the notes in your binder are about work things, they can indeed make you return it.

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